Taxidermist Charged in CWD Case

Antlers recovered by TWRA officers who charged the taxidermist with illegal importation of animal parts from a state where deer or elk has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. (Photo: Contributed)

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. – A taxidermist from Putnam County, Tenn. has pleaded guilty to five counts of importation of animal parts from a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) positive state. Mime Barnes, a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency spokesperson, said James Carter Jr. was fined about $900, including court costs, in the case.

Putnam County Wildlife officers Jamie Greenwood and Mike Beaty discovered the illegal deer parts during a routine visit to the taxidermy studio of James Carter Jr. on January 4. They found that Carter was in possession of seven illegal parts. One case was dropped because the state from where the deer was received was not CWD positive when Carter accepted the deer. The remaining six deer received included one skull and five skull plates. All antlers were removed from the skull plates and returned to their owners and the hunters were not charged.

Hunters are subject to being charged in such cases, however Barnes said the local district attorney’s office elected not to pursue charges against the hunters because they lived outside the area, some even out-of-state.

Out of state importation of any cervid (member of the deer family) is allowed if animals are processed and cleaned correctly. However cervids not processed or cleaned correctly are illegal to possess according to Tennessee law.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease spread through direct contact of cervids (deer and elk). CWD isn’t a virus or bacteria, but a misshaped protein that can remain in soil indefinitely.

Officer Greenwood said, “As wildlife officers, we know the overwhelming effect this disease can have on our deer herds. Once this disease is in our state, it is here to stay. Our duty as officers is to uphold the TWRA mission and ensure wildlife populations are here for future generations to enjoy.”

Tennessee Law on Importation of Wildlife Carcasses, Parts, And Products states:
(1) No person may import, transport, or possess in Tennessee a cervid carcass or carcass part from any area that has a known case of chronic wasting disease except as provided herein:
(a) Meat that has bones removed.
(b) Antlers, antlers attached to cleaned skull plates, or cleaned skulls (where no meat or tissues are attached to the skull.)
(c) Cleaned teeth.
(d) Finished taxidermy and antler products.
(e) Hides and tanned products.

Twenty-four states and two Canada provinces are currently CWD positive.  CWD is not known to affect humans. TWRA biologists test throughout the state each year. To date, 80 free ranging elk and 9,394 whitetail deer have been tested with all results being negative for CWD. TWRA encourages residents to understand this disease and be part of the solution to keep Tennessee CWD free. Find out more about this disease and see TWRA’s response plan here.

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